Job Boards RIP v2.0 – From jobs to communities…

All the traditional channels of recruitment seem to be in for a kicking right now and the job boards seem to be the latest victim!  The recruitment agency model reached middle age before its viability was questioned but the job boards are merely teenagers.  One wonders if social media will make it out of nappies at this rate, particularly with all the fuss being made about ‘ROI’.  Since when did recruiters ever care about that?!

Anyway, job boards are definitely coming under significant scrutiny, their overall value being challenged and in some cases their long term viability is also being called into question.  But are we being a bit hasty?

Job boards evolved in the move of classifieds to the web, which whilst significant at the time was vastly overrated in its long term effect on the recruitment industry and the habits of the job seeker.  As more content went on-line, more candidates looked on-line for jobs but this was really nothing more than a transition from print to web page. Now, as the Market warms into another frenzy, there is talk of job boards themselves being killed off in the light of social media.  But is there any truth in that?

To fully understand the threat to job boards you have to look at the differences between the mid to late 90’s when they emerged in earnest and the current environment within which social media is  developing.  A lot of people are drawing parallels with the late 90’s saying something along the lines of “They said the internet would kill off recruitment agencies and print media but it didnt happen then and it wont now”.   And its a fair point.  But to think that the circumstances are in any way similar would be foolish.

There are some key differences between now and then:

  • There was no recession back in the late 90’s – in contrast we are in the middle of a global meltdown which is forcing organisations and individuals to seriously consider the value and effectiveness of every process.
  • ‘Connectedness’ – its a new phenomena which did not exist in the era of web 1.0 or even in the early days of web 2.0.
  • Generational shift – we are on the cusp of a significant shift in generational influence and control.  In the late 90’s Gen Y were, at their oldest, a group of snotty nosed teenagers about to enter university and lay the foundations for a student debt crisis and a binge drinking sub culture.  Now, Gen Y are employees, decision makers, entrepreneurs and even guru’s.

I believe all three of these factors add a significant and influential dynamic to our current situation and more importantly how this situation will play out over the next 2 years.

This leads me to consider a number of things:

  • Job boards are primarily a Gen X tool, that lack the features current and future job seekers would like to see or find useful. With a small number of exceptions they are predominantly flat advertising platforms lacking any form of long term ‘stickiness’.  Some are evolving, this is true.  But many lack even basic collaborative features or as Katherine Robinson @thesourceress points out in her recent blog post, How To Make A Job Board Social any reasonable integration of social media tools.
  • Job boards are caught in red oceans, forced to compete against each other through segmentation and differentiation by offering additional value around the same core offering in an attempt to hold or increase revenues.  The publisher based ones are particularly caught in this trap as they try to transfer and recover the high level of print revenues to the web platform.  But this strategy simply cannot work longer term. It is not sustainable.

To survive they must do more than evolve.  They need to shift their thinking away from advertising, even away from jobs and careers as a core purpose and instead focus on building a community at their heart.  Once they have this then revenue opportunities, many probably outside of jobs, will naturally flow.

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